Project Description

Borrin foundation: Evaluation of the Special Circumstances Court (SCC) 2018-2019

The Wellington Special Circumstances Court (SCC) is an innovative approach intended to improve outcomes for people who have pleaded guilty to offending. It is a judge-led initiative, supported by a team of professionals (lawyers, community agencies, specialists). It aims to keep people out of prison and reduce reoffending by identifying and responding to the life circumstances driving their offending.

Malatest International received a grant from the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation to provide an independent evaluation of the SCC. The aims of the evaluation were to:

  • Demonstrate what is different about the SCC from the mainstream court process and identify the key elements that contribute to positive outcomes for court participants (offenders).
  • Profile and quantify the participants (provide insight to who is the SCC reaching), assess the impact of the SCC for participants and whānau, and explore barriers and enablers to improved outcomes for SCC participants.
  • Outline the costs of the SCC and transferability of key elements to mainstream courts.

Data collection involved interviews with all key stakeholders including: court personnel (court officials, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, clinical health assessors, probation officers), Non-Government Organisations involved with SCC (Downtown Community Ministry, Salvation Army, Alcoholics Anonymous, Wellington City Mission), SCC participants (offenders) and interviews with SCC participants’ whānau. Ministry of Justice (MOJ) administrative data was used to help inform who the court was reaching and what engagement looked like. Participant case files were reviewed to inform  case studies. The Treasury’s CBAx tool was used to estimate the benefits of the reduction in offending in dollars.

Findings from the evaluation showcased the extent of the reach of SCC, the impact of SCC on various stakeholders and highlighted key areas of success, as well as areas that could be developed further. Composite case studies were developed to show the various experiences and outcomes of the SCC.

For more information about the evaluation and the findings, the report and summary can be found here: